Public anger and disbelief followed the Metropolitan Police apology over “regrettable” strip search of 15-year-old Black girl by two female police officers.
The 15-year-old, referred to as Child Q to protect her identity, was subjected to the humiliating strip search in December 2020 after her Hackney school called police informing them that she “smelled strongly of cannabis and may have been in possession of drugs.” The school allowed the charade to continue by standing by while female officers strip searched the child, without parental consent, even though her bag and outer clothing had already been searched by staff at the school prior to police arrival with no drugs found.
A report into the case, which was subject to a Child Safeguarding Practice Review, highlighted how Child Q was subject to an utterly humiliating search which involved the exposure of her intimate body parts by the two female officers who had full knowledge that she was menstruating.
Police in Hackney, east London have apologised to the girl and her family, acknowledging that no force was used and no drugs were located.
In a statement, Detective Superintendent Dan Rutland of the Met’s Central East Command said: “We recognise that the findings of the safeguarding review reflect that this incident should never have happened. It is truly regrettable and on behalf of the Met Police I would like to apologise to the child concerned, her family and the wider community.
“It is wholly right that the actions of officers are held to scrutiny and we welcome this review which was commissioned by the statutory partnership with the support of police. We have already reminded local officers of the appropriate policies in place around carrying out searches in schools.”
One of the key, yet unsurprising findings highlighted in the safeguarding review, acknowledged that
“…racism (whether deliberate or not) was likely to have been an influencing factor in the police’s decision to undertake a strip search.
The outcome of the ordeal she was forced to endure is now taking its toll on the girl. In a written account of her experience as part of the review, Child Q has said:
“Someone walked into the school, where I was supposed to feel safe, took me away from the people who were supposed to protect me and stripped me naked, while on my period.
“…On the top of preparing for the most important exams of my life. I can’t go a single day without wanting to scream, shout, cry or just give up.”
“I feel like I’m locked in a box, and no one can see or cares that I just want to go back to feeling safe again, my box is collapsing around me, and no-one wants to help.”
“I don’t know if I’m going to feel normal again. I don’t know how long it will take to repair my box. But I do know this can’t happen to anyone, ever again.
“All the people that allowed this to happen need to be held responsible. I was held responsible for a smell.”
“…… I need to know that the people who have done this to me can’t do it to anyone else ever again. In fact, so NO ONE else can do this to any other child in their care.”
Child Q’s mother also commented as part of the review. She describes her child as completely changed and struggling to come to terms with what happened to her.
She said: “We try to get her to do things and reassure her. Child Q is not the same person. Was a person who liked to be active and get into things. Not now, she has changed. She comes home, goes upstairs in the bedroom and closes the bedroom door. Saying she is doing mock exam studies, she just locks off, saying leave me alone. When sleeping, (she is) screaming in her sleep, I have to watch her.”
The full facts of the review and what Child Q went through make for a horrifying read. The fact remains that no drugs were found on her. But even if she was guilty of what they accused her of, no child should be treated in that way.
As Child Q’s mother said: “Why doesn’t my daughter deserve the same rights as every other child, is this because they think she is a young girl, with no respect for her parents or adults and no fear of consequences or because she is a Black child living in a poor city area?”
The case has triggered public outcry on social media:
Met Police is institutionally racist and can rot with its apology. The officers present, who conducted the search & school staff who permitted it must ALL lose their jobs.
You VIOLATED & TRAUMATISED this Black girl. https://t.co/QOgRwADfIc
— Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu (@SholaMos1) March 15, 2022
What happened to Child Q wasn’t done at the hands of an establishment that can be reformed. It was done by an establishment that needs to be abolished. What part of the festering system are you really trying to keep?? pic.twitter.com/yWYGsOyyAC
— Kelechi (@kelechnekoff) March 16, 2022
The indignities that Child Q was subjected to are not an aberration, they’re part of a bigger picture of institutional racism and discrimination within policing.
— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) March 16, 2022